While we've been banging on about body image/Photoshop/those contradictory glossies for too long now, it is always good to be reminded of one's true value. Ellen-Maree Elliott contributes her two cents.
|Picture: Operation Beautiful|
For centuries, throughout the world, women have subscribed to regimes so cleverly schemed we think it’s “just life.” Wealthy Chinese women bound their daughter’s feet to ensure they remained tiny and “beautiful”. Nineteenth century women CRUSHED their vital organs into tiny spaces using whale-bone corsets.
Today, women of the western world drink disgusting concoctions, pop pills, treat lettuce as a superfood, live at the gym, and restrict their calorie intake as close to zero as possible – all varying degrees of scary – to reach a number on a scale. We put ourselves through agony – some die – trying to live up to whatever relatively short-lived “in vogue” beauty ideal the powers that be throw at us.
“The ideal woman is very thin, generally white, highly sexualised and objectified,” says Lydia Turner, pyschotherapist and managing director of Body Matters. “Women are often positioned [in the media] as passive and vulnerable, by wearing few clothes and with body language. There is also a continual emphasis on youth... on perpetual girlhood.”
Thinking about our beauty is inescapable. We are attracted to, and reward, beautiful people. (Because we think they’re better for baby-making, or whatever.) There are physical traits we find universally attractive: Google it. But a lot of what we think is attractive is Just. Plain. Hype. We don’t have to listen to those powers that be.
There are stronger influences on our lives than ink, paper and pixelated images. There are more valuable human traits than face symmetry, height and weight. What are paper dolls compared to the exquisite beauty of a friend? What are gazelle-like legs compared to the kindness of a stranger gifting you a pen for the crossword puzzle? (Random act of kindness WIN.)
We need to find more substantial role models than swimsuit models in fashion spreads.
“In our society there is too much emphasis on how beautiful we are,” says Lydia. “We need role models who define their own self-worth by many different things, not just one, like how they look.”
People who make us think, laugh and believe in ourselves; who realise being white, thin and “sexy” is not as impressive as, say, being able to play a duet with yourself on a ukelele. (Or just being able to play a ukelele.)
Lydia says family, community groups and church groups are great places to find inspiring people. “Look for people who have integrity and stick to their values, who are confident and supportive; who you come away from them and feel uplifted.”
She suggests trying to find three women who don’t conform to current beauty standards whom you admire. Write down why. [Maybe on a brightly coloured sticky note.]
But, although it’s great to have someone to aspire to being like, self-confidence is about being proud of ourselves. So, for a moment, let’s put away our, “I don’t want to seem stuck-up-ness” and our “I look fats”. Get some more brightly coloured sticky notes. Write down nice things about yourself. Don’t focus too much on looks.
Make a rainbow of your awesome.
Ellen-Maree Elliot @ Girl With a Satchel